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Transnational Private Regulation in Practice: The Limits of Forest and Labor Standards Certification in Indonesia

  • Tim Bartley (a1)


Systems for certifying sustainable resource use and decent labor conditions have become prominent modes of private regulation at the transnational level. But serious questions remain about how these global standards are put into practice in particular places, especially in developing countries. Drawing on fieldwork in Indonesia, this paper examines the growth of certification of sustainable forestry (e.g., through the Forest Stewardship Council) and certification of decent labor conditions in factories (e.g., through Social Accountability International). Based on the controversy that surrounded both sweatshops and deforestation in Indonesia, and the export dependence of both the apparel/footwear and forest products sectors, these would appear to be prime candidates for the application of certification. Yet in both sectors, the growth of multi-stakeholder certification has been limited. Furthermore, private regulation in Indonesia has taken somewhat divergent paths in these two sectors, which shapes certification's significance at the point of production. The paper examines how the socio-legal context of certification, the character of supply chain relationships, and possible differences in the politics of labor and the environment can help to explain these patterns and contribute to a richer sense of private regulation's “on the ground” manifestations.



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